The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of April 12th, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
Work on budget bills dominated the activity in both chambers this week. House and Senate Republican leaders are holding intense budget negotiations behind closed doors. With leaders currently unable to agree on spending targets, the House and Senate moved the majority of their own versions of budget bills though the committee process so they are teed up when a deal is cut. We are only awaiting the Standings budget to be released. Besides budget work, the House and Senate held short sessions of floor debate this week. With little work on policy bills left, rank and file members in both chambers went home Wednesday evening while leadership continues to seek a deal to move toward adjournment.
Bottle Bill Consideration
To kick off the week, yet another version of the bottle bill was passed out of subcommittee and the full House Ways and Means Committee. HF 814 would allow stores to refuse returns if there was another nearby location for the customers to drop off their empty bottles. However, if a redemption center, retailer, or distributor violates bottle bill laws the bill introduces a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per day. An amendment has been rumored to be offered which would require retailers and beverage manufacturers to pay small fees in order to help bolster the redemption center economy. But as is tradition for the complex and longstanding bottle bill, not everyone agrees on the bill. Democrats and lobbyists have voiced concerns about consumer convenience and potential hurdles for beverage manufacturers. It is unclear if a compromise will be reached this session.
Back the Blue Legislation
Wednesday brought a heated debate over the House Republican’s version of the “Back the Blue Bill (SF 342)”. The bill started the night as a four-page document and ended as a 33-page piece of legislation that would change the penalties and consequences of crimes, create new offenses, and introduce qualified immunity among other protections for police officers. However, neither chamber took up the racial profile ban Governor Reynolds had proposed in January in their considerations, leading to push back from various advocacy organizations. The debate, that lingered over two hours, ended in a bipartisan 63-30 vote passing the bill with 7 Democrats voting for and 2 Republicans voting against. The bill now returns to the Senate for what is likely final consideration before heading to the Governor’s desk.
Differences in Senate and House Budgets
As budgets moved through the process in both chambers this week, some differences in the House and Senate versions of each budget bubbled to the surface. The Senate’s Education Budget includes an $8.2 million increase for Iowa’s public universities, which is the opposite of the House’s proposal freezing Regent universities’ funding. The debate over funding for the Department of Corrections (DOC) continued this week with testimony from AFSCME’s Danny Homan as the Senate’s Justice Systems Budget offers only a $6M increase for the DOC, while the House previously offered $20M. These differences, among others, will have to be ironed out over the next two weeks should lawmakers want to adjourn on time. The table below provides an update on where the budget bills currently stand in each chamber.
|SF 594||Administration & Regulation||In Senate 4/6|
|HF867||In House 4/8|
|SF598||Agriculture & Natural Resources||Passed Senate Committee 4/12|
|HF 860||In House 4/7|
|SF 595||Economic Development||In Senate 4/7|
|HF871||In House 4/14|
|SF596||Education||Passed Senate Committee 4/13|
|HF868||Passed House Committee 4/12|
|SSB 1267||Health & Human Services||In Senate 4/15|
|SF597||Judicial Branch||Passed Senate Committee 4/13|
|HF 864||In House 4/7|
|SF599||Justice Systems||Passed Senate Committee 4/13|
|HF 861||In House 4/7|
|SF 600||Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF)||Passed Senate Committee 4/14|
|HF 862||In House 4/7|
|SF 592||Transportation, Infrastructure, & Capitals||In Senate 4/6|
|HF 863||In House 4/7|
|SSB 1257||Federal Block Grant Appropriations||In House 4/7|
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Currently, 1,866,464 doses have been administered to Iowa Residents, with 729,159 individuals who have completed their second dose of the two-dose vaccines. Meanwhile, another 85,933 residents have completed the one-and-done vaccine at this time, nearly 30,000 in the last week. For those looking to schedule a vaccination appointment, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced vaccine navigators are available 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help eligible Iowans by calling 211 or (800) 244-7413. There are also translation services available. The CDC continues to maintain a case and vaccine data tracker which is updated daily.
Budget negotiations and final key policy decisions, including the pending tax reform bills, will garner the majority of lawmakers’ attention in the last two scheduled weeks of session. Debate calendars will likely need to be cleared this coming week if bills are to pass in the opposite chamber. The Senate has scheduled committee slots to consider the Governor’s appointments for key administration positions. Two weeks to go should lawmakers come to agreement prior to the scheduled final day of session, April 30th.